Thin pace resources exposed

Thin pace resources exposed

With Ishant ruled out and doubt over Bhuvneshwar, Dhoni's choices are limited

Thin pace resources exposed

Prior to the series, there was this overriding optimism about the ability of the Indian bowlers to make an impact in England.

Their efforts in the first two Tests at Trent Bridge and Lord’s seemed to vindicate that hope. Bhuvneshwar Kumar used the conditions better than the English bowlers, troubling the opposition with his ability to move the ball both ways, and Ishant Sharma ‘bounced out’ English batsmen in a manic post-lunch session at London.

But those heady days are fading fast. A well sub-par effort at Southampton has brought them back to the earth. At the bouncy Ageas Bowl pitch, the Indians struggled to find the correct length, and all they could manage was just 11 wickets in the third Test.

In the absence of Ishant, who was sidelined due to a sore leg, India didn’t have a bowler who could purchase life from the pitch by hitting the deck hard. Debutant Pankaj Singh has the height, and to his credit the Rajasthan pacer managed to trouble the hosts’ batsmen on more than one occasion.

But his lack of pace made it easy for the Englishmen to negotiate barring those odd uncomfortable moments. Now, India also have to deal with an injury scare for Bhuvneshwar, who has taken 14 wickets thus far on this tour.

With Ishant already ruled out for the fourth Test, India cannot afford to lose Bhuvneshwar as well, but a swollen ankle, the seriousness of the injury is yet to be ascertained though, could just deprive them of his service at old Trafford.

It will leave India with a bowling resource as thin as a drying river. Let’s take a look at India’s remaining pace options.

Mohammad Shami:  The right-arm pacer was expected to be India’s spearhead in England. But three Tests later, there is an ever-intensifying call to give the Bengal quick some rest. For some, the core reason behind his inefficiency lies in his heavy workload, for some other it is in his increasingly erratic run-up and for another group it is in his faulty wrist position.

But it can’t be denied that Shami was vastly and disappointingly ineffective in this series so far. He adopted the Bhuvneshwar method of pitching the ball up to the batsmen, trying to make them play as often as possible. However, his lack of direction, often drifting on to the pads of batsmen, made him a rather easy target to score off.

At Lord’s he was pushed to the third seamer’s role, as skipper MS Dhoni preferred Bhvneshwar to partner a marauding Ishant. Shami needs to improve by miles to carry the Indian attack on his shoulder at this stage.

Varun Aaron:  It was a day before the Lord’s Test, and Aaron was virtually unstoppable in the initial phase of the net session. Aaron, who once clocked 153 kmph in a Vijay Hazare Trophy, clean bowled Shikhar Dhawan in two successive balls, then caught M Vijay in awkward position more than once with a few short-pitched balls.

But as the nets progressed, Aaron began to spray the ball all round, forcing Joe Dawes, the bowling to coach, to have a detailed talk with him. That net session showed Aaron in a nutshell – fast but erratic. In England, quickness may count for nothing if you don’t get your radar right. Shami’s outings thus far have showed it.

Ishwar Pandey: He’s tall like Ishant and Pankaj, and those who have seen him from close quarters say that he can bowl at a lively pace too. The Madhya Pradesh pacer has been a part of the squad in Tests and one-dayers since getting his maiden call-up for the series against New Zealand. But since then, Pandey has been more of a journeyman, bowling at nets and bringing drinks during breaks.

The circumstances may force the team think tank to consider his name for the Manchester Test. But the big question in front them will be about his ability to master a big occasion, and bowl at a clutch of batsmen who have showed signs of returning to their best.
The Indian bowlers may just have to walk thorough a ring of fire at Old Trafford.